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Maybe Jane Harman slipped Larry Franklin a file in a cappucino

Mired as I have been since 2004 in covering the classified information case against former AIPAC staffers Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, it jars a when even minor mistakes crop up elsewhere (not that I’m immune – it’s a vast, complicated affair).

And so, the New York Times today describes the grueling process of negotiating what evidence may be presented at trial as having lasted two years. It’s three and a half.

In this interview at antiwar.com, CQ’s Jeff Stein – who broke the new allegations about U.S. Rep. Jane Harman’s alleged involvement in seeking leniency for Rosen and Weissman – says that the Pentagon leaker at the heart of the affair, Larry Franklin, is in jail, doing 12.5 years and moreover, the sentence is relatively lenient, only because Franklin is expected to cooperate at trial.

That might have come as a surprise to Franklin, who was seen last week hanging around the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, sporting camouflage pants and boots (the weather has been very weird in DC of late. And he is a former Air Force colonel.) I mean, the Ronald Reagan Building is less than inspiring, it’s true, but a prison it’s not.

(Jeff’s not the only one who’s made this mistake – just the latest. I keep hearing references to Franklin being in jail.)

Franklin was sentenced to just over 12.5 years, it is true – and that was by all accounts not a lenient sentence – but his time was deferred until after he testifies at the Rosen and Weissman trial. I heard from sources at the time that prosecutors would recommend a reduction to three years should he cooperate, and that Judge T.S. Ellis was likely to take the deal.

But that was over three years ago. And now the case might not even go to trial. And if it does, I’ve heard that prosecutors are reluctant to use him.

This, I’ve heard, is remarkable; prosecutors pull key witnesses only if they’ve done serious damage to their credibility while awaiting trial (for instance, a repentant mob hitman who just can’t break the habit.) Franklin’s abided by the conditions of his sentencing, including avoiding reporters like the plague.

So why not use him? His outbursts during his allocution when he pleaded guilty might be illustrative: The promise of the crux of the government case shouting out "it wasn’t classified and isn’t classified" when he’s on the stand must be giving prosecutors the willies.

So what does this mean for Franklin? His crimes are not unserious: He swore to keep the secrets he leaked not only to Rosen and Weissman, but to Naor Gilon (the Israeli diplomat coming soon to an international incident near you.) Franklin’s unhappy profile as a prosecution witness might not necessarily mean he isn’t "helpful" – just truthful.

But 12.5 years, especially after being held in limbo for more than three years?

And a deal’s a deal, right?

We’ll soon find out.

On another discrepancy note, the Washington Post is reporting today that Harman’s alleged conversation took place in 2006, while the New York Times says it was as early as 2004 while the Washington Post says it was in 2006.

This isn’t quibbling; Harman might actually have made a difference up until Aug. 4 2005, when Rosen and Weissman were indicted; after that, any conversation about reversing a standing indictment would have belonged to the realm of fantasy.

Also, the Times quotes current national security officials, which Stein did not.

This is interesting because I can’t imagine a currentlly employed security official saying "I don’t know about that wiretap, I’ll get back to you and check." A source who stands to lose his job if he leaks likely has clearance to leak.

In other words, this means someone in government has a current interest in getting this story out.

In a related devleopment (those are better than the unrelated kind), Nancy Pelosi remembers being briefed on Harman’s wiretap, but stands up for her. Could she now please tell us when she was briefed?

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